Monday, October 26, 2015

Pickin' Up the Pieces

Drama queens, as you might expect, were rampant at the Artsies, this year also known as the "ratcocks."

Anything to get a chance to say "cock" as much as possible, right?

Because I have no dramatic abilities, I can put on a purple cocktail dress, 4 1/2 inch platform shoes with feathers and a wrap featuring a Picasso painting and fade right into the woodwork in this crowd. Photos, we were told, should be tagged #ratcocks, so I tried to stay away from the cameras.

The Richmond Theater Critics Circle Awards are the annual excuse for the theater community to put on cute but painful shoes, dress up as over the top as possible and scream like banshees when a friend or production gets mentioned from stage.

And that's not even the official entertainment.

That came courtesy of our hostess, the multi-talented (star of cabaret and domestic goddess) Georgia Rogers Farmer, who not only managed to name-check every nominated play to the tune of Madonna's "Vogue" but finished the opening number by doing a handstand which caused her skirt to drop over her head and reveal the letters "RTCC."

Safe to say that photos were taken and immediately tagged.

Anything for art, right? The youngest winner, Brandon McKinney, closed out his acceptance speech for "Caroline or Change" by instructing the roomful of adults, "Make sure you are always making art!"

After BJ Wilkinson won for outstanding achievement in lighting design, he made a succinct speech, ending by saying, "Now I have 600 steps to climb to get back up in the booth."

The show must go on and all that.

Jokes were made about the critics who'd voted on the awards - critic most likely to be a know-it-all, critic most likely to go on about a cute actress - and people nominated, as when Bruce Miller talked about a second career as a bartender, but not at the level of Evan Nasteff, actor and barkeep extraordinaire.

Some presenters used the moment to pass the torch - last year's winners Jacquie O'Connor and Jeanie Rule passing on their tiaras to this year's recipients- while others used it to make time.

When Alexander Sapp and Doug Schneider came out to present the supporting actress awards, Alex suavely greeted the applause with, "Thank you, ladies" and smiled his most debonair smile. Doug looked out and said, "Good evening, gentlemen," getting just as many squeals.

To finish the first act with a bang, Matt Shofner as Hedwig paraded down the aisle to screaming adoration, lips and cheeks covered in glitter, to perform "Tear Me Down," with the band from TheaterLAB's production playing plastic toy instruments behind him while the real band backed them up.

With explicit instructions to take no more than 15 minutes for intermission, this crowd too as long as they wanted to schmooze, smoke and drink before ambling back to their seats.

Georgia kicked off the second act singing about "ratcocks" to the tune of Blondie's "Rapture" and surrounded by Audra Honaker and Evan in giant costumes that resembled the awards themselves dancing around her.

Unfortunately, the show, which Georgia said ran 70-some hours the first year, was already running long not far into the second act, causing her to admonish us, "Let's pick it up. Mama needs a drink."

The guys singing "Nothing Like a Dame" from "South Pacific" got the crowd worked up, especially with those lyrics coming out of some unlikely mouths and guys like Matt caressing their own form when singing about a dame's curves.

The biggest non-surprise came about when Bruce Miller and Irene Ziegler announced Desiree Roots had won best actress in a leading role in a musical because earlier on, the envelope with her name in it had been opened and read by mistake.

"I'm so surprised!" she joked when she got to the podium. Not.

The new theater alliance panel was announced and introduced onstage and while yours truly is a member of that, she didn't get the memo about when to go backstage so was saved the trauma of having to stand up there and face the masses.

On the plus side, overly exuberant artistic director Deejay Gray, sitting directly in front of me, did turn around and start pointing. "She's right here and she looks amazing!" Still better than having to go onstage. Non-actors belong in the audience.

"And now the moment you've all been waiting for!" Georgia, the domestic goddess, called out and began tossing little baggies of bacon out to the audience. I didn't get one originally, but a lovely actress nearby did and turned to me, saying, "I don't eat bacon."

Fortunately, I do and dispensed with that bit of pig flesh in a flash.

Some categories looked like duplicate listings with the same named repeated more than once. Joey Luck was nominated four times for outstanding achievement in sound design and beat out the competition of one other sound guy.

Ditto Jan Powell, nominated for directing both "Equivocation" and "Hamlet," who heard her name called but not the play. Once onstage, she turned to the presenters and looked quizzical. "This is for 'Equivocation,' right?"

Once the final ratcock had been awarded, people began streaming across the street to Graffiato's for the afterparty (coincidentally, also the scene of the pre-party, but with more people) and a chance to revel in wins and put on a brave face for losses.

But most importantly, a chance to cure what ailed our hostess and countless others: Mama did need a drink.

Flying solo, I must have looked like I wanted to talk because several well-lubricated people came up and introduced themselves, a prime opportunity to talk theater with strangers in between catching up with the familiar faces, tipsy and otherwise.

With the ratcock crowd, even mingling at a party is considered making art. Alcohol and drama queens are just part of the process.

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